Wednesday, August 24, 2016

imagining other earths

"Are we alone?" A Princeton University Coursera class allows one to speculate scientifically about that question, HERE.  There is also a class from UPenn on "Plato & His Predecessors" HERE that, while unrelated, looks interesting.

I can't remember if these are free or not (many times they are) but usually you can find some gems.  I finished a Coursera course in "Philosophy of Mathematics" and it was very helpful for my own research. It was of course very interesting and fun to accomplish.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Course Workload Estimator

From Rice University's Center for Teaching Excellence.  Nor really sure how accurate this is, but one may give it a try.  Link HERE.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Prometheanism and Rationalism [feedly]

Prometheanism and Rationalism
// Deontologistics

Here is the video for my talk 'Prometheanism and Rationalism', which was given at Goldsmiths courtesy of Simon O'Sullivan and the Visual Cultures department in May. The same talk was given the previous week at the Dutch Art Institute's Prometheanism 2.0 event, organised by Bassam El Baroni, alongside Patricia Reed, Yuk Hui, and Inigo Wilkins. The video for the DAI version is available here. However, as is often the case, I think the second version is better.

Here is the abstract:

The aim of this talk is to articulate and defend the connection between contemporary forms of prometheanism and rationalism. It will begin by defining prometheanism through its opposition to political liberalism and normative naturalism, as developed by the projects of left-accelerationism and xenofeminism. It will then show how the success of these oppositions is premised upon philosophical rationalism, insofar as it supplies the needed accounts of positive freedom and normative autonomy, and articulate the problems faced by alternatives to liberalism and naturalism that reject these conceptual resources. The remainder of the talk will be devoted to elaborating the account of rational agency through which these concepts should be understood. Positively, it will aim to explain what reason is, giving a minimalistic picture of the capacities its exercise involves. Negatively, it will aim to explain what reason is not, addressing some common objections to rationalism based on misunderstanding its relation to affect, embodiment, collectivity, and other issues.

I'm quite pleased with the talk overall. For those who would like to read the first half, it is available in written form here. If you're having difficult reading the slides, they're available here. It's also worth pointing out that this makes a good companion to my paper 'The Reformatting of Homo Sapiens' (video), whose analysis of myth it borrows. Furthermore, the explanation of contemporary rationalism at the end has been developed substantially in my work on Computational Kantianism, which I'll be sharing here eventually.

Finally, it's worth noting that my positive thoughts on what is now more properly called Left-Accelerationism (L#A) haven't been widely available till now. This is despite the fact that I organised the second Accelerationism Workshop at Goldsmiths, was involved in putting together #ACCELERATE: The Accelerationism Reader, and, weirdly, that my tumblr response to Malcom Harris's confused review of the reader – 'So, Accelerationism, what's all that about?' – which does it's best to diagnose the usual errors in usage and explain the left/right distinction, is the first reference on the accelerationism wikipedia page. This talk doesn't cover everything I have to say about the matter, and there's still some controversy about whether the term is salvageable, given the aforementioned confusions, but it's nice to have something people can refer to.


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Friday, August 19, 2016

Speculative Solution: Quentin Meillassoux and Florian Hecker Talk Hyperchaos (interview)

HERE. Also see a very interesting post on philosophical science fiction, HERE.  The Meillassoux interview is dated although it is probably my favorite one.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The History of Beyng (NDPR review)

The History of Beyng
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

2016.08.17 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Martin Heidegger, The History of Beyng, William McNeill and Jeffrey Powell (trs.), Indiana University Press, 2015, 208pp., $45.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780253018144.

Reviewed by Mark A. Wrathall, University of California, Riverside

This volume -- a new translation of volume 69 of the Gesamtausgabe or "Complete Edition" of Heidegger's work -- consists of two distinct parts: the manuscript of an incomplete and unpublished treatise on "The History of Beyng," and the manuscript of a short (but, to all appearances, more complete) unpublished treatise entitled "Κοινόν: Out of the History of Beyng." The two manuscripts, composed between 1938 and 1940, are closely related in terms of thematic content. In these manuscripts, we get an intimate glimpse into the development of Heidegger's account of the history of metaphysics by bringing it to bear on contemporary events. The historical phenomena that form the particular focus of Heidegger's analysis include the outbreak of the Second World War and the rise of...

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"Philosophy for Beginners: A Comparative Reading of Fichte's Crystal Clear Public Report on the True Nature of the Latest Philosophy and Schelling's Lectures on the Method of University Study"

Breazeale srikes again.  HERE. Having been a fan of his work on Fichte for years, After Nature readers may want to check out the rest of Breazeal's academia page.

See also information on the 5th Bonn Summer School, "The Idealism of German Idealism," HERE. This is actually not this current year's summer school but the year prior's.  It looks more interesting (for me, at least) as this year's is about "The Hermeneutics of Suspicion."

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Schelling's reading of the Timaeus: On Plato's "invisible matter"

Something I've been thinking about having been inspired by two books - Iain Grant's Philosophies of Nature After Schelling and the more recent The Barbarian Principle edited by Jason Wirth and Patrick Burke, is how Schelling's transcendental naturephilosophy picks up upon Plato's notion of invisible matter in the Timaeus.

Essentially Schelling reveals how a distinction might be made, at least in one reading of that Plato text, between visible and invisible matter.  To be more precise, only matter that has taken form becomes ordered and thereby visible.  On the other hand, "matter" is distinct as an invisible (i.e. insensible) "element" that determines "matter as form."

Schelling points out how the elements, "matter", or perhaps "materials," are invisible (insensible) because they have not yet acquired form by way of the divine understanding. Once engendered by the activity of the understanding (the Idea) they obtain form and then congeal into visible nature according to their "ultimate empirical constitution."  It is through human understanding that the elements appear to the philosopher, though not through any empirical phenomenal appearance or representation, but rather through intellectual intuition alone - the "true organ of philosophy." Intellectual intuition is for Schelling the highest activity of any transcendental philosophy, exhibited for example in conducting a speculative physics of nature or by enacting mathematical and logical philosophy, particularly through abductive (not deductive) reasoning.  This is contrary to Aristotle's thinking about the relationship between matter and form which is both empirical and inductive. Against Aristotle's view of matter, Schelling instead, in agreement with Plato's Timaeus, invokes a Platonic physics of the Idea, writing that any object of nature begins "in invisible and shapeless form - all receptive - but partaking somehow of the intelligible."  In this way Plato's "invisible materialism" is responsible for material substances taking on the form that they do - rendered by, but not due to, the activity of intelligence: a "divine reasoning" available to the human within speculative philosophy (thus in this sense reasoning is "in-human" as much as it is "extrahuman").  The powers of insensible matter, the elemental at the base of visible material being, is therefore responsible for any determinate empirical and singular character filling out the activity of a respective form. As Schelling tells us, this power is "base" in its being One despite its infinite distribution throughout many. Thus a "power" ontology where through decomposition (the literal self de-composing of the Absolute) the Absolute's basal becoming fragments and multiplies, proliferating the real and the visible matter of it. Here it is important to note that despite a plurality of materials in which this activity is found there is still only one basal condition of activity, and so it may be better to speak of "ground" rather than "grounds," "power" rather than "powers." Or in the words of Plato, other than being One, Being *is* power. (Here I must note that if we follow Plato in the Sophist fully and state that there is only power where there are things, then still, power must be of a general type - a category - that despite its being in things is not partitioned in its own universal integrity according to those things being its consequence.  This is to say that, if we say there are as many powers as there are things, then what activity is common to these things despite their multiplicity?)

This is all fitting considering it is Schelling's goal to provide a reading of Plato as a "one-world theorist."  Finding duplicity in unity between real and ideal, there is only one "nature" for Schelling, and in the Timaeus an aesthetic materialism finds its development through the concept of insensible or invisible matter.  Grant picks up on this in his Philosophies of Nature After Schelling book, as does"Schelling on Plato's Timaeus" in the Barbarian Principle.  (An introduction to that may be found HERE).

Concerning novel readings of Plato, see also After Nature posts "Dewey and the Ancients + Schelling's 1794 Commentary on the Timaeus" HERE.  Also "The Materialist Tradition in Ancient Greek Aesthetics" HERE, and "Plato on Beauty: Was He Right?" HERE.

As an aside,  I find THIS SEP entry on Plato's aesthetics helpful when thinking about Plato's materialism.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review of A Philosophy of Sacred Nature

Review of A Philosophy of Sacred Nature written by Robert King in Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy Vol. 52, No. 1 (Winter 2016): 114-118.  HERE.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

quote of the day

F.W.J. Schelling (1775-1854)
"If our spirit did not involve a form of knowledge completely independent of all subjectivity and no longer the knowledge of the subject as subject but a knowledge of that which exists in strict autonomy (i.e., of the unconditionally One), we would indeed be forced to abandon philosophy altogether; our entire thinking and knowing would but render us forever trapped within the sphere of subjectivity, and we would have to consider and adopt the results of Kant's and Fichte's philosophy as the sole possible ones."

- F.W.J. Schelling, 1804

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Clear the Way for More Good Teachers" (Chronicle of Higher Ed article written by Doug Anderson)

An excellent read, and definitely worth reading through the whole way.  Some particularly good parts, though:
Higher education has become an industry of meeting-holders whose task is to "solve" problems — real or imagined. And in my tenure as a teacher at three different colleges, the actual problems in educating our young people and older students have deepened, while the number of people hired — not to teach but to hold meetings to solve problems — has increased significantly. Every new problem creates a new job for an administrative fixer. 
I offer a simple hypothesis in response: Many of our problems — retention, class attendance, educational success, student happiness and well-being, faculty morale — might be ameliorated by ratcheting down the bureaucratic mechanisms and meetings and hiring an army of good teachers. If we replaced half of our administrative staff with classroom teachers, we might actually get a majority of our classes back to 20 or fewer students per teacher. This would be an environment in which teachers and students actually knew each other.
The teachers in this experiment must be free to teach in their own way — the curriculum should be generic enough so that they can use their individual talents to achieve the goals of the course. Additionally, they should be allowed to teach, and be rewarded for doing it well. Teachers are not people who are great at and consumed by research and happen to appear in a classroom. Good teaching and research are not exclusive, but they are also not automatic companions. Teaching is an art and a craft, talent and practice; it is not something that just anyone can be good at. It is utterly confounding to me that people do not recognize this, despite the fact that pretty much anyone who has been a student can tell the difference between their best and worst teachers.
Just one college should cut its administrative staff in half and hire an army of good teachers and see what 10 years of such an experiment might yield. The teachers are available — the so-called business model of education has been a disaster and has left us with more qualified teachers than jobs. It is time to see what serious, hard-core teaching can do for a college — and its students.
As an aside, Anderson was the director of my doctoral dissertation.  He has since moved on from Southern Illinois University Carbondale to join the University of North Texas, from concentrating on Peirce to concentrating on environmental philosophy and the philosophy of nature (hmmm, sound familiar?) Anderson has a remarkably clear way of writing which reads enjoyably and well.

Link to the full article HERE.  Pointer to Charles Klayman for the pointer to both the article and letting me know about Anderson's move.

"In praise of Dewey" (Aeon article)

Aeon article discussing the importance of Dewey's Democracy and Education (1916) for the attempt to answer the question, "How should children be educated in democratic societies?"

Link HERE.

Monday, August 8, 2016

quote of the day

Ray Brassier

“I consider myself an idealist, opposed to a materialist, as I insist on the need to preserve the relative autonomy of thinking, and the cogency and the consistency of thinking, and of conceptual rationality, precisely in order to be able to adjudicate the relationship between thinking and reality, between theory and practice, and also it’s an enabling condition for practice. In other words, if you try to fuse thought into material reality indiscriminately, I think that leads to an impotent short-circuit. So I would insist on defending the representational structures that are simply attacked… it’s a caricature of representation that’s being attacked, it’s a straw man. Representation here, and theoretical representation in particular, is a straw man.

I want to defend the imperatives of conceptualization, and even a kind of dialectics, as although I agree with what Nick [Land] says about the way in which death is a marker for real identity of matter itself, the point is that you should never confuse the symbolic marker for the thing in itself. You need a much more careful and subtle articulation of those terms–actually, between zero, one, and two–to explain the autonomy of thought and rationality and of thinking. Not to put too fine a point on it, so that you can maintain and generate a locus of rational agency. In other words, keep a space of subjectivation open that provides a prism for practical incision, a point of insertion. And that has to be done, and I think this involves re-examining the legacy of Hegel, and of Hegelianism. In other words, to maintain a kind of conceptual rationality that necessitates transformation at the level of practical existence. It requires a lot of theoretical work to do this. I would insist on the need to preserve the autonomy of rationality as something that allows you to intervene, to cut, in the continuity."

– Ray Brassier